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    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

What's the Superlative of "Greenwashing"?
February 15, 2012 - 4:46pm

"Greenwashing", of course, is the practice of ascribing supposed sustainable qualities to a product or service for purposes of boosting market share. It's increasingly prevalent, and I generally just ignore it.  But today, two examples totally gob-smacked me.

The lesser of the two was on TV.  On the Green network, of all things.  A "reality TV show" (not to be confused with a TV show about actual reality) about baking cakes that are five feet high.  What's sustainable, or even "green" by the broadest possible definition, about concentrating that number of empty calories in one place?  Excess is, by definition, the antithesis of sustainability.

But even that was outdone by an item in one of the more business-oriented newsletters I receive.  It extolled the commitment to environmental stewardship and the pervasive employee-driven sustainability ethos of one of the world's largest gaming (read "gambling") companies.  Now, with the possible exception of importing bottled water to the US from water-poor countries half-way around the world, I can't think of an industrial sector less sustainable at its core than gambling.  Inducing people to travel significant (often, very significant) distances so that they can eat too much, drink too much, and spend too much time in an energy-consumptive environment for the simple(-minded) pleasure of transferring money from their own pockets to the pockets of already over-rich investors is a business model without redeeming ecological, social or (in any real sense) economic value.  I don't care what sort of waste diversion rate they attain when the sum total of that waste is generated to no good end.  Nor do I care how much more water-efficient their fountains in the desert are, compared to the fountains in the desert of yesteryear.  You just can't make a silk purse out of polyvinyl chloride.

Which isn't, of course, to say that people aren't trying to do just that.


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